Triptych - The Originals
Triptych festival returns for five days of mind-expanding music, DJing and film. As always, the weighty bill is sprinkled with some of the visionaries of modern music. Here we highlight five of the pioneers performing and reveal just how much worse off th
Triptych festival returns for five days of mind-expanding music, DJing and film. As always, the weighty bill is sprinkled with some of the visionaries of modern music. Here we highlight five of the pioneers performing and reveal just how much worse off the world would be if it wasn’t for their musical innovations
Art of noise
It’s 1982, and the then Birthday Party lead singer Nick Cave is in a hotel in Amsterdam at the dog end of a European tour when he hears an ungodly noise emanating from the TV room. On the screen is a purple-faced man blowing into a long length of drainpipe, making a furious howl. The camera pans slowly to the next man who is bludgeoning pieces of sheet metal with two giant mallets. Finally the lense crawls round to frame a third man clad in rubber hose and leotard, a destroyed guitar hanging round his scrawny neck. He is silent for 60 seconds, seemingly transfixed. Then he lets out a scream, a sound Cave describes as ‘somebody pulling a thistle from his soul’. That third man was Blixa Bargeld, and these three men are collectively known as Einsturzende Neubauten.
Few bands have reached such mythical status without ever surfing waves of hype or engaging in some kind of commercial crossover. They are celebrated as folk heroes in their homeland Germany, but to so many elsewhere they remain distinctly under the radar.
The name means ‘collapsing new buildings’, wholly apposite given their modus operandi: they are errant explorers of sound, texture and colour. But to some they were the band of the big skinny guitarist bloke in Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds for years. They famously destroyed the stage of London’s ICA with jackhammers in 1984. But this is only part of their story. They are as ready to diversify into soundtracks for work by dance troupes like Canada’s La La La Human Steps or collaborate on a version of Hamlet on German radio.
They have released more than nine official albums over the years, plus several which are available only by subscription, breaking down conventional barriers between fan and artist.
Blixa Bargeld has the refined, elegant presence of a fine stage actor, as ready to plunge into a great Shakespearian soliloquy as he is a baneful howl. With a voice somewhere between devilish whisper and operatic roar, he is the consummate frontispiece for a band like Neubauten, singing in both German and English and providing a focus to the hive of aural industry around him both live and on record.
The band, which currently numbers five including Bargeld, test the sonic possibilities of musical instruments and manipulate objects including stone, plastic, and wire. These processes are meticulous and controlled. The sound is often disorienting and disconcerting at first, but they share the same dark spiritual heart as Nick Cave or Anthony and the Johnsons but with more of an otherworldly atmosphere and less adherence to familiar musical structures.
Their music has always been unconventional but 27 years since their birth in a club in Berlin they remain unique and startling. Their sound has grown more atmospheric and meditative but it still has the ability to surprise. This, their first visit to Scotland, should be nothing less than that.
Tramway, Glasgow, Wed 25 Apr.
Without Einsturzende Neubauten there would be no . . .
EN’s mastery of the dramatic, the brutal and the poetic inspired Cave’s endeavours early on and Blixa Bargeld was a fixture in his band for over 15 years.
The band went from clean-cut Home Counties homies to grimy, scaffold pole clanging, leather-clad perverts overnight thanks to the influence of EN and others.
The dance/theatre Fringe crowd pleasers are also taking scrap metal and making something worryingly listenable. Different ends but the same aesthetic.
From Syd Barrett to Brian Wilson there’s no denying that artists on the brink draw on a fantastically weird well of inspiration. Charlyn ‘Chan’ Marshall (aka Cat Power) is further evidence of that. For over a decade, she’s produced some of the most breathtaking music of her generation - despite being mad as a fish.
Originally from the state of Georgia, her career was born of the New York experimental scene (a common early routine involved playing a two string guitar and reciting the word ‘no’ for 15 minutes). Discovered by Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, she was eventually added to the cult indie roster at Matador records, her output ranging from intimate, gorgeous country and folk, to catharthic, rattling punk. Live, she was famously unpredictable - her fondness for the bottle, and chronic stage fright frequently resulting in improvised and short-lived performances.
However, 2006’s album, The Greatest, surprisingly saw Marshall cross over into commercial territory. A collaboration with Al Green’s guitarist Teenie Hodges, it paid homage to her southern roots, with slinky Memphis soul and big band arrangements. It’s a brilliant record, but one that seemed to take her closer to the edge than ever. Her alcoholism spiralled, resulting in a cancelled tour, and short stay in a mental hospital (the third of her life).
Now sober, her confidence is sky high, resulting in celebrated live performances. She’s also become the new face of Chanel jewellery, and - most importantly - started work on two new albums, said to be her best to date. So you don’t have to be crazy to make great music then. But it helps.
Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, Wed 25 Apr SOLD OUT; Thu 26 Apr.
Without Cat Power there would be no . . .
None so kooky could have come before the queen of quirk. Cat Power’s guitar soliloquies predate Jo’s harp action.
Bill (Smog) Callahan
Power’s former beau and musical sparring partner was both an influence on and influenced by.
Move over Chloë Sevigny, Cat Power has taken over the mantle of boho geek meets catwalk chic with a Chanel contract.
King of the wild frontier
As national institutions go, Billy Childish deserves a medal. Over 30 years’ service in garage beat combos from Thee Milkshakes to The Buff Medways and his current guise with The Musicians Of The British Empire, Childish has become quietly iconic.
More than 100 albums, 40 books of poetry and several novels, including the semi-autobiographical My Fault, set to be filmed by Kids director Larry Clark, bear Childish’s name. As a painter, he co-founded the anti-conceptualist Stuckists, inspired by a cross remark from former girlfriend Tracy Emin.
Childish fans include the late Kurt Cobain and Jack White of The White Stripes. Kylie Minogue took the name of her Impossible Princess album from a volume of Childish’s poetry gifted her by Nick Cave. Last year Childish was invited to take part in Celebrity Big Brother. But, as his latest album, Punk Rock At The British Legion Hall, makes clear, fame’s trappings hold no appeal.
‘I don’t want to be a pop star or a celebrity,’ Childish maintains. ‘Ever since the New Romantics people have said I’m bitter, but that’s them judging us on their terms, which don’t apply.’
Punk Rock is a whip-smart critique of mainstream contemporary culture. Its title and accompanying World War One image bookends two defining epochs of Albion, through which Childish recognises a parallel between his generation and real-life battlefield veterans.
Accused of being a reactionary retro luddite, Childish’s singular vision in fact reveals an unswerving faith in the simple life.
‘Being on the wrong end of a see-saw is fun,’ he says, ‘but we don’t do it to be contrary. It’s the majority who are reactionary. That’s not bitter. That’s the truth.’
Classic Grand, Glasgow, Fri 27 Apr; Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Apr.
Without Billy Childish there would be no . . .
Albarn and Coxon embraced Childish’s understanding of Englishness on Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife.
Britart’s femme fatale was Childish’s lover and muse for some time. He featured on her infamous embroidered tent.
The White Stripes’ Elephant
Childish’s eccentric recordings inspired Jack White to record Elephant at London’s legendary Toe Rag studios.
Stars of the screen
The quiet ones are always the ones you need to watch. Jason Swinscoe was inconspicuously grafting away in the 90s as part of Ninja Tune Record’s backroom team, exporting Ninja’s sonorous black gold to everywhere from Tokyo to Toronto. He was, of course, simultaneously doing his own musical thing, which slipped out into the world in 1999. The cinematic orchestra have grown to be one of Britain’s most innovative and compelling musical forces.
Swinscoe’s music is a seamless synergy of atmospheric, lush Gil Evans jazz ingrained with vivid contemporary turns. It has been five years since The Cinematic Orchestra’s mesmeric, acclaimed long player Everyday. Forthcoming album Ma Fleur, due to be premiered at Triptych, is of blockbuster proportions. This collection of plaintive, uplifting and moving songs takes the band beyond the realms of soundtrackers and into uncharted territory.
Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, Wed 25 Apr; Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Thu 26 Apr; Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 27 Apr. Ma Fleur is out Mon 7 May on Ninja Tune.
Without The Cinematic Orchestra there would be no . . .
The fortunes of the long forgotten soul chanteuse who wrote hits like ‘Rescue Me’ were revived by her collaborations with The Cinematic Orchestra.
Along with Roots Manuva they showed there was more to the record label than just laptop boffinry and nerdy boys in hoodies.
Quality chill out music
Opening the floodgates for the likes of Röyksopp, they took the sounds destined for the background and pushed them skilfully into the foreground.
Give the drummer some
Few bands could match the mouth-watering, luminary line-up of this all-star outfit. At its heart beats the drumming duo behind many of James Brown’s most enduring stomps, John ‘Jabo’ Starks and Clyde Stubblefield.
‘Clyde is like a brother of mine,’ says Jabo. ‘We are The Funkmasters; we are the core of the group.’ Fred Wesley is the golden era trombonist and bandleader with The Count Basie Orchestra, Ray Charles and again James Brown. Parliament/ Funkadelic keys master magician Bernie Worrell (pictured) joins them in Scotland. Starks says, ‘I came into the funk groove with James Brown but I still played the way Jabo would play. Even James would sit behind the kit and do his thing, and then he’d say “Did you get that?” “Yeah I got that”. And then I’d sit down and play what I was gonna play anyway.’
Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Fri 27 Apr; Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, Sat 28 Apr.
Without The Funkmasters there would be no . . .
Some of these men were the musical engine room for the godfather of soul.
Clyde Stubblefield was responsible for the most sampled drum beat in history, ‘the funky drummer’.
They plundered Bernie Worrell’s songbook, Jabo’s beats and Fred Wesley’s tunes.
Hear and now
Here’s eight more morsels to chow down on from Triptych’s packed timetable
CSS Brazil’s most ferocious arrivistes, whose live show is akin to Pan’s People re-enacting the battle of the Jutland to a soundtrack of boisterous party indie funk. Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Wed 25 Apr; Barrowland, Glasgow, Thu 26 Apr.
Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators Real, raw innovative soul music from this veteran New York vocalist who has crossed swords with everyone from Curtis Mayfield to Leftfield in her time. Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Apr; Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, Sun 29 Apr.
Erol Alkan You can’t really go wrong with the electro meets indie mash up of Erol Alkan, the mastermind behind Trash. This appearance includes a set from his psychedelic rock act Behind the Wizard’s Sleeve. Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Fri 27 Apr; The Admiral, Glasgow, Sun 29 Apr.
Ballads of the Book This event is the daddy of them all with tons of the writers and musicians involved in the project descending for a day-long poetry/pop nexus. Tramway, Glasgow Sun 29 Apr.
Terry Riley A Scottish debut for this mystic master of minimalism. Riley is up there with Phillip Glass and Steve Reich and was an influence on everyone from The Who to Brian Eno with his evocative, barely there magic. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Wed 25 Apr; Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 26 Apr.
Etienne de Crecy Crecy’s 1996’s Super Discount album helped usher in the new wave of French electronica (Air, Daft Punk, etc). A sublime album of deep house, showcasing the possibilities of the genre. Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Sat 28 Apr.
Love Story No, not the Ali McGraw/Ryan O’Neal sobfest but the fascinating cinematic tribute to Arthur Lee’s legendary 60s group with plaudits and tributes from everyone from Primal Scream to The Doors. GFT, Glasgow, Sat 28 Apr; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sun 29 Apr.
PinchThe sounds of urban Britain from one of the key players in the UK dubstep scene (a mix of dub, grime and 2step garage) heads this night of nasty beats and dark bass. The Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Thu 26 Apr.